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A Donlin Family History by Dan Jensen

This is an account of the history of the family of Michael “Mike” Patrick Donlin, with a particular interest in his son E. M. “Gene” Donlin and family. Mike Donlin survived the Great Irish Famine as a boy in County Clare, reported to have lived in part off sea birds and their eggs. He then emigrated as a young man, settling in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he married his first wife Bridget Carmody in 1862, and started a family.

Mr. And Mrs. Donlin and family moved to Lancaster, Wisconsin after the Civil War, and lived there about a dozen years, until Bridget died in the Spring of 1877. Mr. Donlin married his second wife Delia Powers the following Christmas Eve. Mike and Delia moved to Plymouth County, Iowa in late 1879, soon after their first child, Bessie, was born. It was here that the rest of their children were born, and where his eldest son Gene was born and raised.

Mike Donlin had eighteen children between Bridget and Delia. Thirteen of those children survived childhood. Ten lived to age 45. At least seven of Mike’s children had children of their own. After the Donlins had their last child, they moved to Hand County, South Dakota, where Gene would marry Mathilda “Tilly” Schaefer and raise a family. Gene and Tilly lived the rest of their lives in Hand County.

Our primary purpose in investigating the life of Mike Donlin is to learn about the ancestry and family history of his son Gene Donlin. We have a primary interest in Mike Donlin’s second wife Delia Powers, Gene’s mother. On the other hand, we must contend with two facts:

  • Mike spent 15 of his 17 years in Massachusetts and Wisconsin married to Bridget Carmody.
  • Mike had close connections with the Carmodys in Wisconsin as well as in Massachusetts, and even later, after leaving Wisconsin.
    These facts make it clear that to study Mike Donlin, we must study Bridget Carmody and her family as well. For this reason, we have prepared a detailed study of Bridget Carmody entitled “The Origins of Bridget Carmody”, the conclusions and major arguments of which are also contained herein.

We began this investigation in late 1997 with several unanswered questions about Mike Donlin:

  • Where was he born? (known to be Milltown in County Clare, but there are two Milltowns in Clare)
  • Where did he reside in Ireland?
  • Who were his siblings, and what became of them? (names and birth dates of two sisters known)
  • When did he emigrate? (thought to have been in 1857)
  • When did he leave Massachusetts? (thought to have been in 1864)

We also began with several unanswered questions about Mike’s second wife Delia:

  • Where in Ireland were her parents from?
  • When did her parents emigrate?
  • Who were her siblings, and what became of them? (names of two sisters known: Alice and Nan)
  • When did she first arrive in Wisconsin?

Much of what was known when we began was provided by the brothers Ray and Vince Donlin[1], Claire (Donlin) Sweeney, and the records of Bev Donlin[2]. We began with Bev's records, then spoke with Ray, Vince, and Claire, each of whom has been very helpful. Ray Donlin provided two very useful documents:

  • A copy of the marriage certificate of Mike Donlin and Delia Powers.
  • A copy of a research report generated by the Clare Heritage Centre[3].
  • Others contributors include, but are not limited to: Al and Louie Donlin of Miller, South Dakota, Cletta Geary of Austin, Minnesota, Esther Hamilton of Merrill, Iowa, Margie Malec of Summerdale, Alabama, and John C. Mertes of LeMars, Iowa.
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